You probably know the story of “A Christmas Story” – an Indiana schoolboy named Ralphie Parker dreams of getting a glorious Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Released in 1983, it has since become a classic, and if you’re like me, you can quote the lines along with it:
“Now, I had heard that word at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.”
“Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor – heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.”
“Fra-GEE-leh! It must be Italian!”
Watching the TBS channel’s “A Christmas Story” marathon that starts on Christmas eve and runs for 24 hours has become an annual tradition for some families. To celebrate this epic, triple-dog dare event, here are 12 little details and trivia bites from the film that you may never have noticed:
1. Ralphie misspells “Christmas.”
When Ralphie gets his Christmas theme paper back at school there is a close-up of the grade his teacher bestowed upon his masterpiece: a lowly C+. But below that in Ralphie’s kid-like cursive we can see that he spelled “Christmas” as “Chistmas.” Wonder if that counted against his grade?
2. We never know Ralphie’s parents’ names.
It’s true. As played by Darren McGavin, the dad is always referred to in the film as the “Old Man.” And Ralphie’s mom, as played by Melinda Dillon, is listed in the end credits as “Mother.” (Incidentally, Dillon’s name was originally misspelled in the end credits scroll as “Dillion.”)
3. Jean Shepherd has a cameo, and more.
The film is based on the semi-autobiographical short stories by Jean Shepherd, who has a cameo in the film. In the scene where Ralphie and his brother Randy go to see Santa, Shepherd plays the man who brusquely informs them that the line to sit on Santa’s lap begins about two miles back.
If his voice sounds familiar, it’s because Shepherd also narrates the film as the adult Ralphie.
4. The film is set in Shepherd’s home town.
The setting for the movie was based on Hammond, Indiana, the home town of Shepherd, who grew up on Cleveland Street and went to Warren G. Harding Elementary School, just like Ralphie.
5. It’s timeless, really.
Exactly what year the film takes place in is up for debate, but it’s probably either 1939 (due to some “Wizard of Oz” references) or 1940 (from the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring reference). But since the film is set in Indiana, and if the film takes place any time before 1949, Ralphie would not have had any African-American classmates as seen in the film, because segregation was unfortunately still a very real thing.
6. The Major Award!
The leg lamp that the Old Man gets – or as Ralphie calls it, “The soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window” – was inspired by an advertisement for Nehi soda. The design of the leg lamp was the work of production designer Reuben Freed.
7. Director Bob Clark has a cameo, too.
Did you know that the two films Clark directed before the sweetly nostalgic “A Christmas Story” were 1981’s teen raunchfest “Porky’s” and its sequel? Now that’s an about face! But Clark pops up in “A Christmas Story,” as well, as the Parker family’s dim-witted neighbor, Swede (although it’s uncredited).
8. That politically incorrect Chinese restaurant scene.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t laugh. But it’s all in good-natured fun, and that the film gets away with it is part of its innocent charm.
The scene takes place at the Chop Suey Palace and is named “Bo ling’s,” simply because a neon sign across the top of the storefront reads “Bowling” with the “w” not illuminated.
9. The triple-dog-dare.
In the schoolyard scene, Ralphie’s schoolmates Schwartz and Flick have a verbal showdown, and dare each other to lick the frozen flagpole. Flick succumbs and his tongue gets stuck to the pole. Kids, don’t try this at home!
For filming, though, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue was frozen to the metal.
10. Oh, Scut Farkus.
The town bully, Skut Farkus, wears a garish raccoon hat that might as well be a Darth Vader helmet. Yeah, he’s a baddie. (Or maybe he’s just misunderstood?) Played by Zack Ward, the character was created specifically for the movie, and never appeared in the stories.
11. Why is Flash Gordon in the end credits?
An elaborate fantasy sequence – in which Ralphie joins Flash Gordon to fight Ming the Merciless – was filmed but dropped from the final cut of the movie. But the actors that play Flash Gordon (Paul Hubbard) and Ming (Colin Fox) still get listed in the end credits and on IMDb.
12. It was an inspiration.
Reportedly, “A Christmas Story” inspired the popular TV show “The Wonder Years” that starred a young Fred Savage.